We received probably the best race conditions possible for this race just outside of Hamilton on June 8th. There was rain and wind leading up to this day but we were welcomed by calm, over cast skies that kept things very comfortable for racing. With an early start, I did not get to the park quite as quickly as I wanted to so I ended up rushing around a touch before the race and had to put some items on the back burner (i.e. adjust seat) but was still confident enough to concentrate on the race once we lined up for the horn.
It was a grassy start that would lead us into familiar trails so I wanted to make sure to push close to the front to avoid any congestion in the turns along the trail and damn section. Right from the gun it was Jesse Bauer (awesome, young duathlete on the rise) and I leading the pack setting a very manageable pace through the first of five kilometres.
After we traveled to the mid point of the damn, a gravel service path directed us out to the country roads where Jesse pushed along to open a little gap. I was OK with this knowing he has much quicker wheels than I so I just wanted to keep him close. As we turned left on the next side road, I was joined by two more athletes so I started to doubt my tactic for a second. I pulled back up to Jesse as we climbed a small incline to the turn around marker but the others were still in tow. When we made the turn, Jesse fired off and opened up another gap and the other two (Richard Eyram and Jennifer Faraone) started the chase.
I figured on this down hill I would just catch a little rest and prepare for the uphill back into the park about 1km along the route. This worked out decently as Jesse and Richard controlled the pace I worked back and forth with Jennifer on the rolling asphalt until we reached the service road back into the park. I had raced against her before in Woodstock and knew what great run splits she was capable of so I just stayed put and watched the other two lead the way well within my planned distance.
When we got to the transition, I could see a slow time for the expected distance but then also noticed we had about 300 extra metres of running under our belts so was happy with the effort. Next, it was time to get on the bike. I decided to go with pure cycling shoes on this day so my transition time suffered and Jesse actually picked up an additional 28 seconds in T1 so I had 49 seconds to catch him with on the bike.
Right out of the gate, I got into a much better rhythm than my last race, on the bike, and got rolling past a massive number of triathletes. I could tell by the pace (compared to their speed) that I was cruising so I just focused down the road, looking for Mr Bauer in the mix of other athletes. When I finally caught sight of his black and yellow kit, I settled a little and got into a much safer pace for this distance (rather than 10k TT all out I seemed to have worked up to) and then finally made a pass around the 6k mark of the 30k ride. I kept that turn over on the pedals going hoping to open up more time before the halfway mark but did not look back to see how things were shaping up.
As we zig zagged around the country side, I finally made it to the turn around pylon and started to count down until I saw my competition. It was obvious Jesse had sparked his bike up during the 9k to the orange cone as he was only back around a minute so I knew I had to put it into overdrive as he would surely catch me in a 5k run with that small of a lead.
Although, the course was easier on the way home I put in a little extra effort and got into some open roads between some of the top triathletes. This is always key as you can put your head down and hammer without worrying so much about moving around people and getting caught up in groups of drafters. I ended up having a strong ride back to the park and made sure not to go too easy through the driveway (last time I gave away a ton of time coasting through this exact park driveway) as I knew the chase was in full effect.
After a pretty smooth transition number 2, I got back out on the run and tried my best to find my old form. Thankfully, the downhill out of the bike zone gets the legs clipping along and then I just thought about my last run here when I found a great pace on the final run of a triathlon. For the first kilometre I was on my own but as soon as I reached the roads, I found a group of triathletes up ahead. I figured they were among the top 20 in their race so wanted to push hard to pass them to avoid shuffling along. By the time we turned left on the second road I had caught the pack of them and now found some more targets strung out climbing the slight up slope. I kept my cadence up and used some tips from Coach (Kevin) Smith while I closed on the turn around marker.
I started to feel a little more comfortable with my lead but knew I could not ease up at all. With the triathletes running longer on the back of their race, I was now getting mixed in with the very top of them. They were flying but at least kept me motivated. As I made the downhill push away from the turn around I could see Jesse and Richard running pretty close to each other a few hundred metres away. I was now a little scared as I could see JB was looking much stronger than myself. This was going to be interesting.
The next 1.5km was not too bad as I was now in the open and my pace was feeling faster as I re-entered the park for the final time. As I made my way back on the grassy damn, I started to hear foot steps out of no where. Damn, was this Jesse. I was too afraid to look and just waited for the runner to come up on my shoulder. It was a taller, young C3 runner from the triathlon. Thank goodness.
Coming down off the damn with around 500 metres to go, I finally took a peak behind and only saw one other triathlete in sight. I was starting to really suffer and was slowing down. I knew the finish line was not too far away so I just kept the feet moving and made my way up the hill thankful to have held off the charge of the quick running Hamilton native.
More to come...